Masego ‘Maps’ Maponyane is living his best life – but he’s also not afraid of sharing the downside, too.


Maps Maponyane’s last five Instagram posts, at the time of writing, saw him having a casual lunch in Florence, practising his ‘Blue Steel’ on the street in Paris, urging South Africans to vote in the May general election, wishing everyone a Happy Easter and sipping Grey Goose at the source, the 17th-century manor home in Cognac. While it’s easy to write this kind of imagery off to ‘living the Instagram life’, the reality is that this IS Maps’ life – and he’s very much aware of how lucky he is.

Authenticity has always been key to ‘Brand Maps’, and it’s one of the reasons he’s so successful. Shots of him striding across a road in Paris or jetting off to his double-digit international destination of the year in a Business Class seat aren’t there for the sake of bragging rights – it’s just a glimpse into the busy life he leads. “I don’t like presenting unfair expectations and giving people unrealistic aspirations – especially young people – on social media,” he says. “It’s not real – it’s something I’ve always tried to be conscious of, and I’ve tried to show the ups and the downs”. 

True to form, alongside the glamorous fashion portraits sit a few heartfelt posts dedicated to the tech company he had to close down in 2018. The end of the caption reads: “Eventually, with every option exhausted, just like everyone involved trying to get it back on its feet and running comfortably, it had to be put on life support. By then the frustration is too much, you’ve done everything you can, and you just have to close your eyes and let go”. He says it’s essential to document the ebb and flow of both business and life, because “the reel can’t only reflect the highlights”. Part of the learning experience with the company was that nothing is ever guaranteed and you always have to be aware of the risks. “You need to be able to take the hit, if necessary – you have to be prepared to absorb the knocks. I definitely don’t regret backing, building and putting my own money into it because I believed in it and I can’t put a price on what I learned. I certainly don’t regret it, but wish it hadn’t been that way,” he says.

He’s always been the face of several brands – notably Samsung, Google and Mercedes-Benz – but he’s also on a mission to create brands of his own. He collaborated with GM & Ahrens to create an MCC of his own, which has quietly been doing the rounds with collectors and wine & bubbly aficionados for the last year or so, and he’s now toying with taking it commercial. “It’s called Spectacle because MCC’s are associated with celebrations and we think that it’s something that can make any occasion a spectacle,” he says. “It’s a high-quality, high-end product that we think stands up to France’s quality champagnes and we hope that it’ll find appreciation amongst fine diners, wine connoisseurs and people willing to spend the money on enjoying a product made to very high standards”. If all goes to plan – and he decides to take it ‘commercial’ – Spectacle will be available from around September 2019.

No stranger to time in front of the camera, he’s assuming the role of Producer alongside Terry Pheto on a new local film directed by Akin Omotoso, being shot in Johannesburg as you read this. “Convincing prospective investors to put money up for a local film has been quite a challenge,” says Maps. “It’s tricky to convince someone to part with their money when there’s no guarantee of success – but the team we’ve assembled is dedicated to doing everything that needs to be done to make it a success”.

Philanthropy is taking an ever-more prominent role in his day-to-day life, as borne out by his involvement with the Laureus Foundation and his appointment as a Volunteer Advocate for UNICEF South Africa. Of the former, he says he’s incredibly supportive of the work they do in utilising sports to ensure that children across the world are given fair life opportunities, lessons and skills. “Children who come from troubled backgrounds children can so easily head down rabbit holes of problematic behaviour or lives of crime, and Laureus has implemented some amazing programmes to give them opportunities to stay off the streets and show them their real potential,” he says. “Sport gives them added hope that they can make a difference in their own lives – and in the lives of others, too”. 

His work with UNICEF is part of his mission to champion Early Childhood Development (EDC), something particularly close to his heart. “UNICEF has these wonderful support programmes for children from communities which are struggling with the results of famine, disasters, a lack of educational opportunities and a host of other issues. They rally people to support by volunteering and giving their time – money isn’t always the most important contribution – and anyone can help,” he says. “My role is to show people that they can make a huge difference in the life of an entire community by simply giving of their time and skills, on even the smallest scale. If we’re not looking after the future and what it can hold for us as Africans, there won’t be one – the continent will never realise its full potential and will continue to be dependent on foreign aid”.

Travel – for work and pleasure – remains a big part of his life, with trips to the U.S., France, Italy, England, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Monaco, Dubai, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand already ticked off, or on the cards for 2019 alone. “Of the Nordic countries, I’ve only ever been to Finland, and I’m excited to explore the others because they inspire a lot of my ideas about design and ways of thinking. I really appreciate those societies and how they manage to create such incredible environments for people to live in,” he says. He’ll be there as a guest of Mercedes-Benz, who are launching a host of new electric and hybrid ‘EQ’ cars. “What’s fascinating is that Norway has just become the first country with as many electric cars on the road as there are, combustion-engined cars. That’s staggering”.

What’s next? You never can tell, with Maps – but it’s sure to be authentic, whether it’s a big win or a hard knock.

Text: Trevor Crighton Images: © Andy Koodge